For the second time in two months, Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th) held a community meeting to discuss a proposed development for 111 South Peoria Street in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, currently a surface parking lot. And for the second time, West Loopers came out to the Merit School of Music loaded to the gills with ammo in an attempt to see to it the site remains undeveloped.
Not that developers haven’t tried to appease the masses. LG Development Group, represented by partner Brian Goldberg, modified its plans considerably for the project. Among the changes:
- Instead of rental apartments, all units would be for-sale condos
- A decrease in number of units, from 205 rentals, to 95 condos
- Average unit size increased from 836 sq ft to 1,572 sq ft
- Overall building height lowered from 140 ft to 115 ft
- Pedestrian lobby moved to Peoria Street
- Rooftop pool and common amenities area removed
- Zoning change request reduced from DX-7 to DX-5
While some felt those changes seemed to be a tremendous concession on the developer’s part, one unimpressed statistician calculated they had only made alterations amounting to 13 percent of the overall plan. And that was just one of the many objections brought to the table.
While a hand-out provided by residents of the West Loop began with the assertion the 111 South Peoria project would block skyline views from Mary Bartelme Park, Ald. Burnett let it be known at the start of the night’s proceedings that “views” are never a factor in his decision-making process.
But the focal point of those opposed on this night wouldn’t be views at all; rather, the residents surrounding Bartelme Park are concerned about the effects on property values should this development be allowed to proceed.
Several speakers, including attorney Sam Tenenbaum, of the 850 West Adams Association, drew applause with each sentence that pointed out what they perceived as flaws in the developer’s plan. Mr. Tenenbaum’s two main points against the proposed building were that it 1) is too big for this particular site, and 2) would have a “substantial negative effect on neighboring property values.”
Fire safety also drew a great deal of attention. After LG representatives spoke of discussions with the Chicago Fire Department that indicated CFD personnel would not be obstructed in rescue and fire fighting efforts, a retired fireman told the assembled crowd, with a rendering of the proposal as his backdrop, that the physical characteristics of the space seperating 111 South Peoria from Monroe Manor (841-849 West Monroe Street) would dramatically delay rescue efforts due to an inability to extend ladders within the confined space.
Other speakers on behalf of the community pointed to the topic of the zoning change itself. That Chicago’s zoning changes are intended to “support the safety and quality of life for the residents and visitors of the City of Chicago,” not so that developers can better benefit from building on a property. And 111 South Peoria Street, in their estimation, would not succeed in supporting that quality of life for West Loop residents.
A meeting expected to be tense and intense surely was. What will we see next for this proposed development? Ald Burnett mentioned in opening the meeting this site had been used against him in campaign efforts. That “you shouldn’t vote for Burnett; he’ll let someone build on that lot.” And he saw again tonight that the opposition is not about to back down. Can LG Development Group modify its plans once more to the West Loop community’s satisfaction? Stay tuned, folks. This one ain’t anywhere near being over.